Back in 2010, Donal and Frederique Keane reviewed their performance at year-end and looked at the overall costs of their farming systems compared to returns.
They began questioning if there were other options for their cattle and tillage enterprises going forward.
On meeting a local organic farmer, who gave an overview of the organic farming system, the Summerhill, Co. Meath, farmers began looking at organic farming as an option.
At a recent Teagasc farm walk, they explained that they saw it as “an opportunity to improve the overall financial position of the farm” and also recognised the environmental benefits of organic farming.
After careful consideration, completing the Teagasc FETAC Organic Farming course and visiting other organic units, the farm entered organic conversion in 2011.
Organic Suckler Farm
Then, it achieved full organic status for the land and produce two years later. The farm is now home to a suckler-to-beef enterprise and a cereal enterprise of winter wheat and spring oats.
The holding comprises one block of land, all of which they own, extending to 58 hectares.
Initially, they operated a suckler-to-beef system and acquired weanlings from fellow organic dry stock producers, selling all animals direct to an organic processor.
The family aims to have a low-cost system, and one way of advocating this is not purchasing concentrate feed for animals. Instead, they provide this from the grain they grow on their farm.
The suckler herd on the farm comprises predominantly Aberdeen Angus types, and in previous years, they crossed these with an Aberdeen Angus bull.
However, last year, they crossed the suckler herd with a Wagyu bull, and the first progeny arrived in spring 2022.
Going forward, the couple, who farm at Camelton Stud with their daughters, Pauline and Marie, and son, John, plan to finish these and sell them off-farm.
Furthermore, they also intend to source organic breeding heifers off-farm, with the overarching aim always being to achieve a premium price for “all that is produced on the farm”.
Cattle graze in one group on a rotational basis around the farm, and fields are divided into 3-4-acre paddocks.
They house cattle for the winter around December 1st. Thereafter, cattle are back out grazing from mid-March based on when they calve down.
Suckler cow performance
Regarding suckler cow performance, the Keane’s herd is excelling when it comes to calving interval, mortality – dead at birth and dead at 28 days, calves per cow per year and a 6-week calving rate.
BEEP-S and future plans
Data recording is another important element on the Meath-based organic suckler farm holding that is performed as part of its participation in the BEEP-S Scheme.
The couple weighed their weanlings last October, and results showed that they varied from 230kg-340kg, and ADG ranged from 0.92-1.36kg.
Going forward, the couple plan to rebuild their suckler herd to thirty breeding females, finishing all progeny off-farm, sow more forage crops for outdoor winter feeding and grow mixed cereal crops, including combicrop.
Part two of this article covers their tillage operation.
To share your story, email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Other articles on That’s Farming: